After news broke that actress Zoe Saldana had replaced Mary J. Blige in the role of legendary jazz singer Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic about her life, backlash immediately followed.
When photos of Saldana in an afro wig and darker makeup on set popped up online, fans and family members of the singer felt Saldana didn’t resemble Simone enough to star in the project and petitioned to have the role recast. Singer India Arie called the biopic a “parody,” and Simone’s daughter wrote a letter to those involved.
In a recent AP interview with The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, her majesty also weighed in, saying she also feels the role could have been better cast. “I did know Nina and I would have liked to see someone with a little more of a likeness and [who] hopefully played the piano,” she said. “But I don’t know Ms. Saldana’s work and Hollywood can do a lot of things in terms of changing your features and all of that.”
Saldana responded to critics in February, saying, “The reality is what keeps me focused, and what kept me from getting stressed or being hurt by the comments is that I’m doing it for my sisters, I’m doing it for my brothers and I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that.”
Franklin went on to discuss her own much-anticipated biopic, which has been in the works for years and the singer is heavily involved with working on. She revealed plans to meet with the team behind the project this weekend to discuss casting. Right now Jennifer Hudson and Tony Award winner Audra McDonald are considered front-runners, though Franklin wonders if McDonald can really dig into the part. “The question where Audra is concerned is whether or not Audra can get into soul,” says Franklin. “That would be the question because she has the voice, she has a beautiful instrument. I just wonder how far she can get over into soul.”
Hudson, on the other hand, she says, “Would come up with some good things.”
Who would you like to see play Simone and Franklin on the big screen? Tell us your nominations below.